A jury found former Louisville, Ky., police detective Brett Hankison not guilty on Thursday of charges of wanton endangerment stemming from a botched police raid in March 2020 that resulted in the killing of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor.
The jury deliberated for three hours following five days of witness testimony, and determined Hankison was not guilty on all three counts of wanton endangerment, a felony that could have resulted in a one- to five-year prison sentence for each count.
“I’m sort of at a loss for words right now. I think absolutely Brett was, the jury felt like, you go out and perform your duty and your brother officer gets shot, you’ve got a right to defend yourself,” Hankison’s lawyer Stew Mathews told the Louisville Courier Journal following the verdict.
The death of Taylor, an emergency room technician who was black, drew national condemnation months later amid protests over the killing of George Floyd. The city of Louisville will pay $12 million to Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, in a settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron has said none of the 10 rounds fired by Hankison struck Taylor, and no other officer has been charged in connection with her death.
In the March 2020 incident, officers executing a search warrant in connection with a narcotics investigation used a battering ram to knock down Taylor’s door. Police said they identified themselves, however Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, afterwards said he didn’t hear them and believed a robbery was taking place.
According to investigators, Walker fired a shot at police with a handgun, believing them to be intruders, and hit Sargent Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. In response, Mattingly and Detectives Myles Cosgrove and Hankison fired 32 rounds into the apartment. Taylor was struck by six rounds and killed as a result.
Hankison was charged after it was determined that three of the rounds he fired traveled through a wall into a neighboring apartment, where a man, pregnant woman, and fiver-year-old boy were present. Matthews said Hankison fired into Taylor’s apartment in the direction of a muzzle flash, although he could not make out a human target.
Hankison testified that he fired into Taylor’s apartment because he believed his fellow officers were being fired upon with an AR-15. No AR-15 was found by investigators at the apartment, while Walker legally owned a handgun.
“I knew Sgt. Mattingly was down, and I knew they were trying to get to him,” Hankison testified. “And it appeared to me that they were being executed with this rifle.”
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